Parthipan, the actor, director and producer, loves breaking the conventional rules set by commercial cinema. He has taken roles that other heroes would carefully avoid, directed films that his critics found to be arty. The actor has remained uncompromising and stuck to his principles in spite of some not-so-memorable roles in the past. After the critically acclaimed and award winning films like Housefull and Azhagi both audience and the trade have acknowledged the maker’s undisputed talent. Excerpts from an exclusive interview with the actor after the release of his latest film Ivann.
Q: How would you analyse the kind of films that you choose?
A: My films should have a structure and a basic storyline. I believe that a good script is more important than the stars and the grandeur. In cinema it is the story telling that is more important than the glitz. Moreover I observe what is going around in daily life and try to solve some of these vexing issues through my films.
Q: Your critics say that you are at times too arty and that is the reason why Housefull did not run to full houses!
A: (laughs) I do agree that the film was a commercial dud and all my problems today are because of that film. I have never been able to build a huge villa or buy swanky cars out of my earnings from cinema. I have lost heavily in Housefull but the film gave me tremendous aesthetic pleasure and don’t forget that it got a National Award for the ‘Best Regional Film’. And I feel that my hard work was well rewarded.
Q: What made you accept Thankar Bachchan’s Azhagi which was a heroine oriented subject?
A: Azhagi was straight from the heart. I fell in love with the story when Thankar Bachchan narrated it to me. It was a beautiful film and a lot of people who saw the film told me that unrequited love has never been told in such a poignant manner. Shanmugham of Azhagi will always remain close to my heart and the success of the film also goes to Nandita Das who played the lead role. The film was a huge hit, which was appreciated by the classes and the masses alike.
Q: They say that you are a middle class man with an attitude problem. Please comment.
A: I do come from a middle class family and was born and brought up in the ghettos of Chennai. My father was a clerk in the post and Telegraph department, but our family could never make both ends meet. After completing my 10th from the Hindu Senior Secondary School in Triplicane, I started as a stage artiste who used to perform on stages in Chengalpettu and Vilupuram. It was getting me nowhere and so I came back to Chennai and made the usual round of going to the producers offices and was finally able to become the assistant of Bhagyaraj sir. But during those days what kept me afloat was my voice. I used to make around Rs 6000 a month by dubbing for various artistes. My first film was Dhavani Kanavukal, where I played the role of a postman. Then came Puthiya Pathai as a full-fledged hero, which I feel was my big ticket to stardom.
Q: Have you come a full circle by making an out and out commercial potboiler like Ivann?
A: Yes I have produced, directed, acted and even distributed the film in certain areas. Ivann is a pucca commercial film meant for the frontbenchers. There is a strong message in the film “that a single man can never change the society, but on the other hand if all the citizens stand together united, then we can make our country a heaven”. The film has glamour in the form of Soundarya and Meena and good music by Ilayaraja.
Q: Has Ilayaraja composed some classical numbers for the film?
A: There are three carnatic songs that are rendered by the famous singer Sudha Raghunath and are picturised on Soundarya who is a classical singer in the film. Graphics are used in one of the songs for the first time and the famous critic Subbudu plays his own character in the film. Ilayaraja had commented during the re-recording that I have given a human touch to the film, which was a great compliment for me.
Q: Why are you so obsessed with social messages in your films?
A: I am always aware of the happenings around me and would like to do what little that I can. The audios of Ivann are sold in paper bags with a message ‘Avoid plastics’, as I am worried about environment pollution. For me my family is the society.
Q: Do you have any political ambitions?
A: Let me first reach a position in the film industry before spelling out my political ideology. I strongly believe that no individual whether he is an MGR or a Rajnikanth can solve your problems. My belief is that unity is the most important factor that binds a society. If we are united, then all our problems can be solved.